Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

Raising Teens: Not for the Faint of Heart

WRITTEN BY JENNIFER ROBERTS

Mama tribes are an amazing gift. They are the friendships that often form in childbirth classes, prenatal yoga, playgroups and at preschools. You will bond over breastfeeding, birth plans, dirty diapers, new mom fears and celebrations and it will be glorious. These mamas will get you through long nights of no sleep, potty training, extra baby weight and teething, and you will not be able to imagine a time without them. However, like all good things in life, they come and go. Once elementary school starts, you will begin to move in new circles from various sports and clubs, and some of these friends from your mama tribe will fade in to the background.

My advice to you? Foster those friendships. Hold them tight and close. Make time for coffee and spa days. Continue to share the heartache and sadness of parenting because a new adventure is on the horizon and you will need your mama tribe more than ever. Teenagers. Those wonderful, charismatic, crazy, independent young adults who now babysit your children will soon be in your house full time, and it is a wild ride. It is certainly magical and thrilling, just not in the way it was when they were small, adorable and relatively easy to contain. Now they drive, date, have opinions and freedom. I held some of my mama tribe close.

I have been friends with five of these women for more than 20 years, and we have carried each other through pregnancy loss, marital separations, moves, graduations, unexpected pregnancies, career growth, my daughter’s cancer journey and the death of a parent. It is safe to say that I could not have survived some of these moments without them, and I believe they would say the very same thing. We have vacationed together and shared all things parenting. New mamas have entered my life and are near and dear to my heart, but not like these five.

Then our lives got crazy. Some of us moved, got new jobs, or a new spouse, and we began to connect more on Facebook than in person. In addition, we had teenagers. It was hard; I started to struggle. I did not have any of the answers for raising these new people in my house. It was as if they spoke a new language. I did not understand them. They did not understand me. I was navigating waters I had never been in and, from what I could tell, my mamas were cruising along fine! No one else seemed to be drowning. They posted family pictures and talked about school sports and vacations. There was no mention of drugs, teen sex, struggling body images, bullying, dating, driving, arguing and curfews. Clearly, there was something wrong with my children, our parenting and me. Finally, I asked – and I received.

Heartfelt, tear-filled messages and phone calls came pouring in. Every single mama felt alone and believed that she and her child were failing. It was not just me. One was dealing with an angry son abusing drugs and running away. Another had a 17-year-old daughter who was pushing every boundary surrounding curfew and had let a friend pierce her tongue in a garage. I attended a meeting at my son’s high school in which I was informed he had missed 56 class periods by mid- October and would not graduate on time. This was hard and painful. We welcomed each other with open hearts. We needed each other to vent the hardships and cheer on our successes. We listened to the angry tears, broken hearts and mama victories. And we felt united! No longer alone, awash in a sea of hormones, we had been pulled into a lifeboat. After 20 years, we had rekindled the tribe.

Do not lose your mama tribe. Parenting is powerful work. It is the hardest and most rewarding job you will ever have, and it truly takes a village to be successful. Hold on to each other, lean on one another and do not be afraid to reach out when you need to. Your fellow mamas may feel lonely and overwhelmed as well. Most of my children are now young adults and there is one lone child still in high school. I am brave, strong and nearly done with this part of my journey. I look forward to sharing stories about grandchildren with my mama tribe.

 

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Jennifer Roberts is the mother of a blended family that includes her husband of 21 years, stepson, nephew, son, daughter and countless teenagers and young adults who love to hang out around her kitchen, ranging in age from 15 to 25. On any given day, you can find her mopping mud off the kitchen floor, breaking up wrestling matches or trying to figure out where her mascara disappeared to.